A tale of two boats
The diversity of Noakes Group expertise was on show this week when the boatyard was entrusted with the care of two famous ocean-racing yachts whose triumphs have come 80 years apart.
Early on Monday the North Sydney staff lifted out Sir James Hardy’s legendary gaff cutter Nerida, which won the Sydney to Hobart Race way back in 1950. The classic yacht, launched in 1933, will again begin a week of annual maintenance at Noakes under the watchful eye of wooden boat expert and Managing Director Sean Langman.
Five days later, the staff returned Tony Kirby’s elite modern offshore racer Patrice III to the water after a comprehensive refit following the yacht’s demanding Winter campaigns. These included an impressive win in the Groupama race around Noumea.
Although the yachts are remarkably close in overall length – Nerida is 45 feet (plus bowsprit) and Patrice III is 46 feet (also plus bowsprit) – the two champions of their era could not present more contrasting challenges for the Noakes Group team.
Peter Inchbold, General Manager Recreational, explains. “Like all great timber yachts Nerida is a living thing,” he says. “We really have to look after her like a stately old lady. There’s a lot more to it than just a quick scrape and antifoul. Finding and repairing even the smallest defect blow the waterline is crucial. We’re very pleased that Sir James trusts us to do this work on his wonderful boat.”
By contrast, Patrice III is an example of the latest technology in Grand Prix yachting. With a carbon-fibre hull and rig the slick sloop must withstand the enormous stresses and loads that modern ocean racing generates. When Nerida won the Sydney-Hobart race her elapsed time was 5 days and 6 hours. Last year Patrice III covered that same course in 1 day and 23 hours.
“Keeping a boat like Patrice in top condition calls on just about all the skills we have at Noakes,” says Inchbold. “There are a lot of exotic materials and technologies involved. We’re lucky to have many of the best people on staff – painters, riggers, fabricators and engineers. Being a one-stop shop makes maintaining these complex yachts much easier, and more efficient.”
Patrice III was back in the water and ready to race in the first event of the Blue Water Season on September 15. Nerida will soon return to the less stressful task of carrying Sir James Hardy and his guests on social cruises around Sydney Harbour.